Tom Stangl

If you believe the hype, it appears the war about digital privacy is heating up.

For nearly as long as the internet has been around, businesses have been observing what we do online. Have you ever noticed what happens after you do a Google search for a product or service? As if by magic, ads for what you were looking for begin appearing on websites you visit.

Is this magic? No, it’s computer programming telling advertisers you were looking for their product and collecting a fee for delivering an ad to you.

Some will argue we live in a free market economy, after all. Advertising has been around nearly as long as the invention of the first product that was ever sold. Advertising helps you understand products and services and ultimately improves your life.

Others will counter that what you look at online should be private and the only way it should be accessed is with a search warrant. 

Both of these examples are the extremes, the truth should lie somewhere in between.

As trillion-dollar businesses have developed on advertising and tracking behavior, it makes sense that someone would come up with a business plan to appeal to those who don’t want to be tracked.

Apple Computer is positioning themselves as the guardians of privacy. The newest version of their iPhone operating system is set to contain additional privacy protections that will amount to users being tracked only with their implied and direct consent.

Seen by some as the most egregious company to track behaviors, Facebook is fighting back against this new feature offered by Apple.

Apple makes its money by selling its hardware: iPhones, iPads, iMacs and Apple Watches. Facebook gives away its programs and makes money marketing the behaviors of its users. Both companies do quite well in their respective “lanes,” but Apple’s new operating system has the potential to directly impact the revenues of Facebook. The chief executive officers (CEOs) of both companies have been trading barbs about the other.

“Right now, users may not know whether the apps they use to pass the time, to check in with their friends, or to find a place to eat, may in fact be passing on information about the photos they’ve taken, the people in their contact list, or location data that reflects where they eat, sleep or pray,” Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said in January at the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection conference.

“Apple’s new prompt is designed to present a false trade-off between personalized ads and privacy; when in fact we can provide both,” a Facebook spokeswoman said. “Apple is doing this to self-preference their own services and targeted advertising products.”

Search giant Google, who owns the Android operating system that competes with Apple, was working to comply with the changes for its apps, and advising customers they could see “a significant impact to their Google ad revenue on iOS” after the change.

I don’t believe any of these companies truly are on our side when it comes to privacy. It’s simple to want to have protection and much more difficult to understand how to get it. A very good rule of thumb to follow is if a product is free to use, you (the user) is the product that is being sold.

In the end, we all need to advocate for ourselves.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at tstangl@theameryfreepress.com, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

Thanks for reading. I’ll keep in touch. Feel free to do the same. 

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